ATLANTA — In-person early voting for the presidential preference primary election got underway Monday with a lot of social distancing requirements put in place at polling locations.
Throughout the day, Channel 2 Action News received complaints about long lines. Elections officials told Channel 2 investigative reporter Justin Gray that if you come to vote in person, come expecting to wait.
In Cobb County, voters were spaced 6 feet apart as they waited to cast their votes. The line was so long, elections officials told some people to wait in their cars to limit contact between people to avoid contracting coronavirus.
“I had hand sanitizer and had a hand wipe in my hand the whole time,” one voter said.
At the C.T. Martin Recreation Center in southwest Atlanta, staff brought chairs and water for people as they waited.
“We cannot let the coronavirus or nothing else stop us from voting,” another voter told Gray. “I stood in line maybe about 45 minutes.”
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Added precautions including disinfecting equipment between use and limiting the number of voting machines for proper social distance adds time.
Cobb County elections director Hanine Eveler said they also had to cut back on the number of early voting locations.
“Our new normal is that things are going to take a lot longer so that we can maintain everyone’s safety our workers and our voters,” Eveler said.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger told Gray that there is still time to request an absentee ballot and vote from home.
“The reason we encourage people to vote from their home absentee is because it’s really something that’s going to be a lot easier on the voter,” Raffensperger said.
Channel 2 Action News found some confusion among voters about those absentee ballots.
“I know that some people that are showing up haven’t received their ballot yet, so they are showing up to cancel their ballot,” said Fulton County elections director Richard Barron.
Barron said those ballots are coming in the next week or two, and they are being mailed from a centralized facility out of state.
If you plan on voting in person, here's what you can expect:
- Voters will stand six feet apart.
- You'll use hand sanitizer when checking in.
- In some counties, voters will use a tap a touchscreen with a stylus instead of a finger.
- Early voting is for three weeks before the June 9 election.
- Officials ask that you stay home if you are sick.
More than 250,000 voters have returned absentee ballots for the combined general primary and presidential primary, according to the Georgia Secretary of State. By comparison, about 37,000 people cast absentee-by-mail ballots in the 2016 primary.
Before the March 24 presidential primary was delayed because of the coronavirus threat, nearly 289,000 voters cast ballots. Those voters are still eligible to participate in the primary, but their ballots will exclude the presidential race.
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